Sunday, March 09, 2008

Still another Boleyn girl

Blogging wasn't the first pastime to keep me tethered to the computer for hours on end. That distinction belongs to genealogy, a joyful pursuit that began in 1989 and continues to this day. I couldn't begin to estimate the hours (and dollars) I've spent tracing my ancestors and learning as much as I could about them.

Most of the people in my family history were ordinary citizens, living their lives in the best way they could, much as most of us try to do. I'm pleased to have inherited whatever common genes I share with them, and I wish I knew more about them.

Other ancestors were more prominent, so much more has been written about them, and some of them were not especially nice. If you've turned on your television set for more than an hour in the last month, you've probably seen the trailer for The Other Boleyn Girl. The "other" refers to Mary Boleyn, the lesser known sister of Anne Boleyn, whom King Henry VIII married and later caused to be beheaded. Mary was my 15th-great-grandmother, on my mother's side of the family.

Mary was a married woman (girl, more accurately) who had a long-term affair with Henry VIII before her wily sister, Anne, wormed her way into his favor. The stories of these two sisters totally dispel the notion held by some folks that Hollywood is to blame for today's "loose morals." Ha! The people in that particular royal circle thought up plenty of naughtiness all by themselves.

I wish I'd known all this stuff when I was younger. When my mother walked in and found teenage me in a passionate lip-lock with my boyfriend, it would have been really handy to be able to say, "I know this looks bad, Mother, but at least I'm not as bad as your Granny Mary or Auntie Anne." And if, as an adult, I ever made a questionable, late-night decision out of loneliness or longing (not that I'd ever admit to that), it would have been less regrettable in the morning if I'd known about Mary and Anne. I could have written off my foolishness to genetics and cut myself some slack.

Fortunately, in the generations between Mary Boleyn and myself, our gene pool has been watered down by plenty of people who were more grounded than the members of King Henry's court. Grounded is better, I think. I may never have romanced a king, but I've loved at least one royal pain in the a$$, and I suspect my experience in that regard was not dissimilar to Mary's.

When I think about Mary, I like to picture her in the latter years of her life. She married a second time, for love apparently. Because Mary married a commoner, her sister, who was queen by then, banished her and her husband from the court. According to historians, they lived the rest of their lives in relative anonymity.

If there was any part of Mary that's now a part of me, I believe she appreciated the peace and quiet.


  1. I imagine it's an awesome thing to able to write, "my 15th great-grandmother." It somewhat boggles my mind.

  2. I think my ancestors have equally interesting if not-quite-royal stories. I learned today from my father that his grandmother was a "secretary" to a traveling salesman, traveled along with him in a covered wagon across the west. Dad was completely matter-of-fact with that story but I immediately thought my great-great grandmother was a enterprising, if somewhat wayward, woman.

  3. Velvet, How fascinating! What an amazing story!

    I just LOVE watching THE TUDORS on Showtime. That era is so incredible. I certainly agree about the peace and quiet!

  4. I know this book is labeled fiction but I want to read far my library has not had it on the shelf...but I will get it. I think it will make a nice read.

  5. I read that book. My best friend sent it to me in the mail, not trusting that I'd get it at the library. I found it hard to get into and put it down a few times but I was urged to keep reading, and once I got into it I couldn't put it down.

    It's always interesting to realize that current generations didn't invent immorality. It's unbelievable what went on in those days!

  6. Figuratively bowing here to Her Royal Highness, Princess Velvet...

  7. Duly Inspired, speaking of 15th great-grandmother, I just did the math. Starting with two parents, four grandparents, etc., by the time you get to 15th great-grandparents, each of us has 262,144 of them. I'd say I'm 1/262,144 part Mary Boleyn, but considering all the incest back then, it may be more like three or four parts.

    Maxngabbie, glad you enjoyed it.

    Annie, what a great story about your father's grandmother. Can't you imagine her life as a TV series, with them traveling in the covered wagon to a new town each week?

    Holly, I don't get Showtime, but I've considered buying The Tudors on DVD. Do you think I'd like it enough to invest in it?

    Sister-Three, read Janet's comment right below yours and remember it when you get hold of the book.

    Janet, I'd forgotten till you mentioned it, but my experience with the book was very much like yours. It starts off s-l-o-w-l-y.

    Carmon, while you're figuratively bowing, I'll figuratively tap your shoulder with my ceremonial sword. Oh, wait -- that isn't a ceremonial sword I'm holding, it's a Swiffer duster.

  8. Velvet, I heartily recommend the Tudors. It's exceptional. Certainly worth a rent if not a purchase. Superb acting, a story that has captivated generations and the jewelry makes me dizzy from drooling! I had a friend in town when I was catching up on the shows and she HAD to rush out a buy them.

    I don't actually buy Showtime. I keep getting it for free due to a glitch with my satellite receiver...I'm on my 5th one in over a year and each time they give me more Showtime! And now, I'm addicted to some of those shows and may have to actually subscribe.

  9. My Sisters love to research all of the dead people....Sister Fleta gets along much better with them...

  10. gputxit is good to live a quite life. ask the gov. of new york!

  11. Creekhiker, thanks for the tip. I'll make it a point to get hold of the Season One DVDs soon.

    4th Sister, I think Fleta has the right idea.

    Patsy, I bet Gov. Spitzer would give his right arm for a little peace and quiet about now. One more example of a man doing his thinking with the wrong organ.


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